Boys Went Down Fighting, and Girls, Led by Ward, Did Too

"Right down to the wire"
Kaelyn Ward, left, finished a record-breaking career with a team-leading 25 at Islip on Friday. Last Thursday at Islip, Thomas King and his fellow Bonackers just missed advancing to the county playoffs’ second round, losing by 3 points. Durell Godfrey and Jack Graves Photos

   East Hampton High School’s boys and girls basketball teams went one-and-done in the county playoffs last week, though the boys, as has been their custom all season, fought to the end, and Kaelyn Ward, as also has been the case all season, played valiantly in her career finale.
    Ward led her team with 25 points Friday and finished with 1,160 in her career. “Kaelyn went down fighting,” said the girls’ coach, Howard Wood. Islip, the opponent, won the first-round Class A matchup 73-41 as Shannon Duer, who scored 33 points and captured 20 rebounds, did her thing down low. “She’s a phenomenal player, very strong, and pretty much unstoppable,” said Wood.
    Rolando Garces scored a game-high 22 points in the boys’ 56-53 loss at third-seeded Islip last Thursday, “though, as a team, we ­didn’t shoot well,” said the boys’ coach, Bill McKee, “and we made some mistakes at the end.”
    Even so, the Bonackers, who trailed by 13 points at one point, came back to take the lead with two minutes to go, only to watch it vanish in the final ticks. “They hit a basket to put them up by 2, we came down and missed a good shot with 20 seconds left. We had to foul. They made a free throw with only two seconds left, and that sealed it.”
    “We would have liked to have won so that we could play Harborfields, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. It was a game that’s been typical of our season, right down to the wire. We’ve played in seven games that have been decided by 3 or fewer points and we’ve gone 5-2 in them. I told the kids I was proud of them, that they should hold their heads high. They never quit and played their hearts out. I really appreciated it. A coach couldn’t ask for anything more.”
   Tuesday morning, McKee announced that Thomas King, the team’s poised and versatile senior point guard, had been named to the all-county team, “a big honor for him. He’s played four years and each year he’s gotten a little better. We’re going to miss him — he played everywhere really, at the point, and as a forward and center at times.”
King, who’s weighing whether to attend Quinnipiac, Mercy, or Hardwick College in the fall, averaged 16 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists per game.
   McKee also will miss Garces, the baseline-driving senior forward who was named to the all-league team, and who, according to the coach, “is the perfect example of what hard work can do. Rolando played a total of 10 minutes all last season. The game was too fast for him, but he decided that he wanted to be a player. He was at every open gym we had and played with college players all summer at the high school — high-level pickup games that Coach Petrie began here in 1969. He lives in Montauk, so it wasn’t easy for him. Sometimes he took a bus, sometimes a train, but he was always there.”
   Asked in what particular area or areas Garces’s game had improved, McKee replied, “Ballhandling — he became a much better ballhandler in the off-season.”
Another post-season honoree was Danny McKee, the coach’s son, who was the second-leading 3-point shooter in the county, with 45, vis a vis the leader’s 53. McKee, a junior, was honorable mention all-league.
    He, Thomas Nelson (the team’s leading rebounder), Brendan Hughes, David Moss, and Charles Barranco will be next year’s seniors. Brandon Neff, who hit some key 3s coming off the bench this season, will be a junior.
    The elder McKee’s advice to them is to avail themselves as often as possible of the open gym hours, and of the “Dr. Dish” shooting and rebounding machine that the East Hampton Youth Basketball and Football Association recently gave to the basketball program.